Windows 8.1(Windows Blue) Review

Windows 8.1 Pro Preview Evaluation copy. Build 9431

 

Windows Blue or Windows 8.1 is a recent update of Windows 8. Which is currently in a preview edition. I tested the Windows 8.1 Pro 32 bit Evaluation Copy on my laptop. Before I begin let me tell you the specs of my laptop it’s a Dual-Core with 1 GB RAM , why did I selected a low hardware over high end, because I wanted to test how it performs on low resources. At higher resource even the worst built software may perform kind of OK more over I wanted to test how it performs over Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7. While testing a OS I use it for a week and I try out the basic task which all people does like, web surfing, email , music, movie, document editing, etc. And I also try other things which only few people does like installing IDE of certain programming language and installing other developer tools which worked fine in previous versions of the OS. And I do write the review of the OS using the same OS itself. (Except using photo editing or other tools which I don’t have license on the new OS or the software does not work on the new OS)

 Installing the OS

The installation went smoothly after I downloaded the iso file I used tool provided by Microsoft to make it in a bootable flash drive. You could skip this step and burn the iso into a DVD and use it to install.

Installation works same as Windows 8 so I won’t go into the details.

Most noticeable change that you will see at first.

You can directly boot in to Desktop Mode if you want.

Still No Start Menu.

Still feels like the UI is designed for touch screen rather then traditional Keyboard and Mouse.

Problems encountered while using Windows 8.1

My laptop has a Realtek sound card, on installation of Windows 8.1 the sound stopped working, resolved by installing the latest drivers (for Windows 7/8) from the official manufacturer website.

My laptops touchpad scroll stopped working, older drivers were unsupported, no driver for Windows 8 or 8.1 , tried to use 3rd party drivers but still no joy. And screen brightness control keys did not work by default (worked after installing Windows updates), while other function and multimedia keys worked fine.

Windows 8.1 Start Page

 

(While these problems were entirely related to my laptop which is fairly old model, you may not even have these problems on your laptop if its new or other model then mine,  mentioned because you should be ready to download and install drivers if it does not work, keep in mind that if your network card is not supported you should have access to other working PC or dual boot your computer before you install Windows 8.1, having said that we should note this is a preview copy and not final, it’s natural that something won’t perform as desired. It’s to be noted that my touch pad works fine in other Windows versions with driver)

Using the OS.

After I finished installing the OS and driver for my sound card. I started installing my day to day software. I installed Google Chrome and synced my bookmarks and plugging, installed VLC, winrar, and MS Office 2010. All went perfectly smooth. Problem faced was one of the old software that I use (which still works in XP and Windows 7) Google Talk that I frequently use. The installation went fine but it will never sign in to Google account, keeps throwing an error message about problem in connecting, even though the internet works fine. Well its an old software Google did not push any updates to it for quite a long time. But the fact that it still works in Windows XP and Windows 7 but not on the Windows 8.1 was a bit of disappointment for me. And yes Google Talk Plugin for browser works fine.

Ok, hard core Windows fan may have already started hating me, please don’t there are many things I liked. Even though I don’t have any state of art GPU in my laptop just the regular Intel on-board graphics card, the screen looked crisper then it use to when I used Windows XP or even Windows 7, its to be noted that I did not install the default drivers provided by the manufacturer, the Windows 8.1 installed the required drivers itself. I linked my Microsoft account with my laptop and visited the Store, very much same as with Windows 8, installed one app to test (Twitter) downloaded & installed fine and worked as it should no complains.

Twitter App getting installed from the Windows App Store

Even though I have set the boot to Desktop in my machine the missing Start Menu kept bothering me. (remember I am my day to day task on this computer ) so I had to install a third party Start Menu, strange as it may sound the first which I installed had compatibility issue with Windows 8.1 ! Tried to check solutions online but it failed to resolve any problem. So I uninstalled it and installed another one that works fine.  If you care to use it on your own Windows 8.1 or even Windows 8 it’s called Start Menu 8 made by IObit (note I am not sponsoring the company by any mean, there are many other companies that makes start menu for Windows 8 which you can use if you like)

Except for the scroll on my touch pad and issue with gesture controlled things in Windows 8.1 and after I installed the third party Start Menu Windows 8.1 is pretty much usable. The boot time is very fast considering the low specs of my laptop, it booted faster than Windows XP or Windows 7. But Windows 8.1 did give me more trouble with BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) then Windows XP or Windows 7 (while installing Windows updates)

Games

We all know the next best thing a computer is useful for is playing games. While the latest and greatest games are not tested by me. I went ahead and tested the most use applications in office environment next to MS Office. Yes I am talking about Minesweeper and card games like Solitaire. Well to be able to play that game you need to have a internet connection , a Microsoft account and time to download it. Yes the basic games also needed to be downloaded. Well it may be because it’s a preview copy, but seriously you are making a 2GB plus size ISO (for 32 bit) how hard is it to squeeze in a game or two? Well its not COD, games size are not that big.

Xbox service not available.

While people may argue why bother I will just download it from the internet. Yes that what we have to do but, what if the person who just installed the OS and other important software decides to go out of his/her house without internet, and decides to play a game after he/she is bored with work(which he/she does offline like making PPT and Excel sheets for his/her office) Well MS has decided you should not be able to play games at least not without a Microsoft Account and Internet connection and the time to download the games. Minesweeper is a 105 MB download well not that big in size you will say, but if you like me lives in a country where internet is slow and pricy you will think otherwise.

You need to download even the basic games.

(Note: I did not download any games)

Ok lets surf Internet and play online games

Lets come to the default IE. Yes I am a Web Designer come developer and I hate IE, ever since IE6 (before that I was not developing anything for the web) I hate IE. But I will still use IE for a while and let you know how it performs. Just because I like my readers of the blog. Well as most of the cool things of web nowadays is HTML5 I decided to check it first. So how does the new IE 11 performs on the Microsoft’s new operating system ? Poorer then other modern bowser. HTML5 score is very low, even lower then some of the basic Android phones.

HTML5 Test Score for IE 11

 

IE 11 on Windows 8.1

 

While using for email, social networking , surfing you won’t feel any difference, if you are a developer or designer for the web and works with HTML5, CSS3, JS, etc you will definitely feel that Google Chrome is much better.

 

Default Apps

Most of the default apps that comes with Windows 8.1 is metro apps. As metro apps open in full screen when you start , it can make some apps less useful. While some apps do looks good when it starts in full screen , like the photo app, yes we all generally like to see photos in full screen so goes with the default video app. But some apps when opened in full screen makes it less useful. Example the default pdf reader app. And if you download the Adobe reader from the Microsoft Web Store it will also run in full screen. Well I don’t know about you but many a times I have opened a pdf file and used Word, Excel or PowerPoint while viewing the data from pdf . That can not be done with the pdf readers with Metro interface. Yes there is a solution you can get the normal pdf reader from Adobe website directly.

Another thing that I hate about this metro apps is that the ads inside the apps. I mean I am already seeing ads in browser when I visit web pages,and you show me ads in mobile apps but now you have to show ads inside apps which runs on my PC too?

Ads inside PC apps!

 

Useful Shortcut that will make using Windows 8.1 bit easier.

 

Closing Metro Apps: Alt +F4

Starting Windows applications quickly: Windows Key + R (and type the app name in Run dialogue example mspanint for Paint application ,excel for MS Excel)

Open Windows Explorer (My Computer to look for your files): Windows Key+ E

Something like the start menu bot not the same: Windows Key + X

 

 

Developers (skip this if you are not)

Well my developer friends I tried to install , run and do some coding (not at all in anyway better than you) on popular tools to check how well its compatible with Windows 8.1

Windows Visual Studio 2012 compatibility with Windows 8.1 (I know the latest is Windows Visual Studio 2013, buts its supported very well as its used to make Windows 8 Apps)

Visual Studio 2012 install error

Visual Studio 2010 on Windows 8.1

Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate installed fine but did throw error while installing, works file (I did some projects on asp.net stuffs only, did not test other features)

Windows Sky Drive service deeply integrated with Windows 8.1

Windows Sky Drive service deeply integrated with Windows 8.1

News App in Windows 8.1

The default news app of Windows 8.1

Twitter app docked

Twitter app docked.

My final conclusion.

So as of now what I fell is that if you have a touch screen based device and willing to learn new way to interact with your computer go ahead with Windows 8.1 (when it releases) or if you already use Windows 8 then you should update to Windows 8.1 But if you have an old computer or if you don’t want to learn new way to use your computer and want to stick to the way you have used your computer for all these years don’t update to Windows 8.